Dooley’s final AP ballot and way too early Preseason Top 25 ranking

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Rising senior running back Lamical Perine is one of many talented players on Florida's 2019 roster. [John Bazemore/Associated Press]

There were about 10 minutes remaining in the national title game Monday when I saw the white flag.

Alabama coach Nick Saban punted down by 28. That meant I could send in my final Associated Press ballot with Clemson at the top and go to bed without worrying about a historic comeback.

The day had been spent managing the rest of the ballot and for maybe the first time this year I felt pretty good about it.

Then I saw the results Tuesday.

It’s my fault, Gator Nation.

You could have been all alone in seventh place instead of tied with Georgia. But some knucklehead put the Bulldogs ahead of the Gators and that one extra point pulled Georgia into a tie with UF.

Now, I think voters who had Georgia below Florida put too much into the bowl season and I seem to remember a game in Jacksonville that didn’t end well for the Gators. But I can see some logic. Florida beat LSU. Florida hammered Michigan. Georgia lost badly to LSU. Georgia lost its bowl game.

Still, I voted Georgia ahead of Florida.

Don’t hate me.

Here is my final ballot for this football season:

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Ohio State

4. Oklahoma

5. Notre Dame

I thought about dropping the Irish lower but 12-1 is still a pretty nice season.

6. Georgia

7. Florida

8. LSU

9. Texas

10. UCF

LSU finished ahead of Florida in the final poll and I don’t get that.

11. Kentucky

12. Washington State

13. Michigan

14. Army

15. Washington

Did I have Army too high? Heckuva season. And I wondered how far Michigan would drop. The Fighting Harbaughs ended up 14th.

16. Syracuse

17. Penn State

18. Texas A&M

19. Fresno State

20. Cincinnati

21. Appalachian State

22. Northwestern

23. Utah State

24. West Virginia

25. Iowa

There you have it. I love being an AP voter. I can always tell people I have to watch football because of my obligations to the process. Hee-hee. I hope they let me do it again in 2019.

I already have my early preseason ballot ready (subject to change):

1. Alabama: A hungry Nick Saban is a dangerous Nick Saban. There is so much talent on this team and a healthy Tua Tagovailoa will win the next Heisman Trophy.

2. Clemson: Those losses on the lines of scrimmage will be the difference.

3. Ohio State: I’m a little reluctant with a new coach and a new quarterback, but it will be a reload.

4. Georgia: New coordinators will be interesting.

5. Oklahoma: Remember the name Austin Kendall, who could be the next Heisman winner.

6. Oregon: A bit of a reach, but the Ducks could be a playoff team.

7. Texas

8. LSU

9. Notre Dame

10. Florida: The Gator roster is better than it was at this time last year, but the schedule is a little tougher.

11. Texas A&M

12. Michigan

13. UCF: At what point do the fans of this school start complaining again?

14. Washington State

15. Kentucky: Two best players gone, but the Wildcats will be solid.

16. Northwestern

17. Auburn: Coach Gus Malzahn is calling the plays. Watch out.

18. Penn State

19. Washington

20. Wisconsin

21. Iowa State

22. Utah

23. Iowa

24. Army

25. Missouri. One of the most intriguing stories of next season will be quarterback Kelly Bryant, the Clemson transfer.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

44 COMMENTS

    • Well Sparky, I think that’s a fact and I’d suggest that the squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the attention — they more often than not get ignored completely, tuned out if you will. I’ve been told that they are doing all this to attract the attention of the Big-12, but I live in Big-12 country and I have to tell you that most people out here think they’re a joke. That’s saying something, because there is a popular idea of the Big-12 expanding to bring in not only BYU, but Houston as well (another AAC team, but one which was previously in the Southwest Conference, the forerunner to the Big-12). Another thing about the Big-12 is that West Va is not a popular team out here, lacking any semblance of a regional tie-in……so it would be doubtful for them to bring in another East Coast team over Houston anyway — particularly a team lacking any roots in Power-5 football at all. I’m afraid at the end of the day, all these UCF inspired delusions of grandiosity are just that — a joke.

      However, on the other side of things, Orlando is a pretty big TV market, and conferences have been known to do pretty strange things in the past for the almighty $. If the Big-12 could use another Vandy, I suppose UCF would be as good as anybody.

      • I “get it” about the TV market angle but I hate it. Plain and simple. Houston, and even BYU, make perfect sense for Big 12. Heck, take back Mizzou or A&M. But West Va or gosh, UCF??? Are you kidding me? Yes you get tv eyeballs (and $$$) but you sure don’t build rivalries and spark regional interest and those are key things that have made college football so great.

        I’m not being mean or arrogant when I say this, but why can’t UCF just be happy being UCF? Enjoy playing in your conference and be done with it. Why is it that no one can be happy where they are…they want to be somewhere else….and then when they get there, they aren’t happy and want to be somewhere else.

        • Yesterday, Nick Smith wrote of his neck injury and decision to give up football, “I will not let football determine who I am as a person”. What clarity of character for a young man!

          Would that UCF follow his lead.

          Very good point, Rog.

        • UCF is a flash in the pan. All of this over 2 1/2 good years? It is a reflection of the headline and soundbite society we live in. Let’s see how UCF fares over 8-10 years and against competition that doesn’t have to stay in a Motel 6 when they come to play.

    • Ocalarob. UCF has a bunch of really good and well-coached players. They have an excellent head coach. If they had not lost their starting QB, I have no doubt they would have whipped LSU’s butt in the bowl game with their style of play. With that QB and their current roster, I also have no doubt that UCF would have competed well in the SEC East. But, for them to sustain their quality of play and success, they either have to get into a Power 5 conference or start playing 2 for 1 with Power 5 schools (like the one Florida offered) for their non-conference schedule in the future. I believe they will soon be invited into a Power 5 conference, but not the SEC (Florida would not let that happen).

        • Not only that, Milton would not have been able to play in the secondary and slow down LSU’s passing attack. Milton and UCF can only beat a decent team in a shootout like the 2 Memphis games. The only reason they scored in the 30s against LSU was because they were fielding their 3 rd string secondary.
          UCF is a nice team, in the AAC.

          • And one of UCFs touchdowns was scored by their defense. Seems some people change their minds on how much the stars matter based off of their argument. UCF would be a middle of the sec team as the best with their players.

          • Yep Sparky if some people were consistent with their star argument they would argue UCF is all smoke and mirrors and only a product of their weak conference and overall schedule and not able to compete in any P5 conference let alone the best one.

          • Had UCF been in a power 5 conference for the last 15 years, then they’d be in the same category with teams like Kansas, Indiana, and Rutgers. Power 5 teams that never even come close to a significant bowl game.

        • Sparky and CO. If you want to take pot shots, I would suggest doing so with accurate information and fact. I never said UCF was a title contender (they are not this year or last year) or that teams cannot do well if they do not have top recruiting classes (UCF did last year and this year). But I have said that UCF is a very good team (and they are). And I have also stated that, if a program wants to consistently compete for conference and national championships on the Power 5 level, that program has to recruit at a very high level (that means having a lot of four and five star recruits on your roster like Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma had this season). So, please post information that is accurate and reflective of the truth at least in your pot shot attempts. Or keep posting alternative facts in an attempt to do whatever you are doing on here.

        • Joe. And that would be your opinion about UCF. No way to prove that opinion. But the UCF program right now, which currently has an excellent AD and head coach, is not the same program of the past. So, not exactly sure what your point is. It is my opinion (which can only be proved if it happens) that UCF could currently get into a Power 5 conference and compete and become an elite type football program. And I think they are headed in that direction.

        • Carlton. Have you even watched Milton play? He is almost impossible to tackle for a loss with any kind of pass rush. Auburn found that out last year in their bowl game vs. UCF. Milton would have made a huge difference in the LSU game, and it is my opinion that UCF could have won that game with him at QB based on what I saw from watching that entire game. He is a major, big-time QB and would be on any team in college football. Put him on LSU and I doubt LSU would have lost a game all season long other than maybe Bama. And I am not sure even Bama would have beaten an LSU team with Milton at QB. He is that good (or was that good before his horrific injury).

          • Someone once said that there was no way that Toney could play qb an entire season in the SEC because a small qb cant survive. Milton would probably fall into that same category. We will never know, because he will never play against power 5 athletes for an entire season

          • Your analysis of college QBs is not very sound. I remember earlier you praised Nkosi Perry as being very “dynamic” and much better that Franks after the canes with Perry at the helm easily beat up NC. Perry would go on to struggle against better teams and lost his starting job soon after. Milton is a nice kid, nice QB who has never faced tough competition week in and out. To say he woulda beat LSU or that he would make LSU undefeated is pure conjecture and not based on any facts or evidence. Surprising coming from someone who routinely chastises others when posting without proper “evidence”. Practice what you preach buddy.

          • CO. If you are referring to me concerning Nkosi Perry, again you are posting inaccurate information about me. I could not name a single player on Miami’s team until you mentioned Perry. I do not follow them. I have no interest in them. I have never posted anything on here about Miami to date. So maybe you should practice some accuracy with your own preaching. And it was my opinion about Milton. One does not have to base an opinion on facts. One uses theory, which can be disproven or proven, buddy.

          • And CO. Why don’t you follow Gator 6’s lead (or just follow as usual) and avoid referencing me, reading my post, or replying to my posts. You will be a happier person, and I will not have to reply to your inaccuracies and distortions over and over again.

          • You did say that about Perry but I don;t want to waste the time needed to look it up. I remember because I live in Miami and found that comment very silly indeed. It’s OK to admit sometimes you make mistakes, unless you think you’re infallible like the Pope.

    • That’s one of the strangest things over the last 15-20 years, talk about similar trajectories in either direction. The two schools even shared Will Muschamp. And, I might add, the same disdain for UGA!

      I think the underlying health of the program is currently better at UF than UT. There is some hype involved yet in Austin, but they’re not really far behind at all. Of course, you wouldn’t know it by the preseason rankings.

  1. Too high for Ohio St. As you wrote – new coach, new qb. I’ll listen to Oklahoma at 3.

    I think it’s hilarious that sports talk is overreacting to the NC game. Saban’s lost it? It’s over now? Long live Clemson? Really? The only fan base that wouldn’t swap their situation for Alabama’s is Clemson. BTW Clemson, which coach is more likely to get poached by an NFL team – Sabes or Dabo?

    • GatorGopher. I think the only school Dabo would ever consider leaving Clemson for would be Alabama when Saban retires. But I doubt he would even do that. Dabo, I believe, will retire some day as the Clemson head coach after a long and legendary coaching career there with many national titles. Just like Saban will at Bama. I think the head coach most likely to leave a good situation and head to the NFL in the future is Kirby Smart at Georgia.

      • Swampy, I’ll agree that Dabo will never have a better situation than the one he has now. I’m imagine they’re measuring him for a statue even as we speak. I thought the same about Steve Spurrier back in the day. How could SS leave his beloved alma mater after transforming UF from lovable losers to The Mighty Gators? And leave all those future National Championships on the table? But these guys all have egos, there’s the human nature element of taking stuff for granted. And then there’s the NFL $ (not as big a difference now as when SS bolted UF). If I’m Dabo’s consigliere I tell him stay put (and for sure DON’T follow Saban at Alabama). But who knows with any of these guys?

  2. Pat. Not shocked you picked Georgia over Florida in your final poll. You picked against Florida for most of the year, even when it was clear that they were improving greatly as the season progressed (and particularly after the Missouri game). And Pat, using your logic, why would not Kentucky then be rated higher than Florida in your poll? They beat Florida and had the same record. But I would have put LSU just over Florida and Florida over Georgia because LSU beat Georgia about as badly as Georgia beat Florida; and Florida beat LSU and was playing better than Georgia at the end of the year. And Florida and LSU won their bowl games. And I would have Florida slightly over Kentucky at the end (even though Kentucky beat Florida) because I think Florida was playing better overall at the end and beat a better team in a bowl game, and by a wider margin of victory. And, Pat, keep a close eye out on the development of the Florida offensive line this spring and summer. If that OL gets really good during that period, I would suggest that you and Robbie should pick Florida a lot more often next fall.

    • Of course no one’s shocked Pat put Georgia ahead of Florida in his poll, because that was the right call — not a fan’s call. Georgia had a better overall season, won the East division and drilled Florida head-to-head. Kentucky’s blowout loss to a bad Tennessee team near the end of the season was too much to swallow in putting it ahead of Florida.
      One thing about writers’ predictions is that they mainly base their picks on what has been shown in the past and not on what they hope or think can possibly happen. Hence, Florida was picked to beat Kentucky — wrong. Florida was picked to lose to MSU and LSU — wrong. Florida was picked to lose to Georgia — right. Florida was picked to beat Missouri — wrong.
      Picking UF to lose to FSU was simply paranoia about Tallahassee ghosts — I get it.

      • Carlton, somebody that actually gets it. Why fans think it’s a big deal what team a sports writer picks to win a game is important is beyond me. Pat could pick our Gators to lose every game next year and it wont effect the season in any way. And I have to admit….going to Tallahassee the last game of the season had me nervous after watching Spurrier take better teams there and still not be able to win. Hopefully that dumpster fire there continues to rage for another year or more.

  3. I would put the over/under on next season at 9.5 regular season wins. If you had to bet everything on it, that would be a tough pick for most people. After the great progress we made this season, it will be thought of a step back if we finish 9-3 next year, but in reality it could still be a step in the right direction.

    • Sparkman, the Master of Spark, Spark-a-Roo, the Great Sparkini…..SparkyGator! I concur. Now that’s not to say that we’ll reject anything better, but the important thing is no steps backward in the 2nd building year, maybe one more win and one less loss…….round off 9.5 wins to a 10-2 regular season…..get another great recruiting class…..and brother, get’r done in year 3. Of course, 12-0 or 11-1 would eclipse that, but just like “one game at a time”, “one season at a time” too.

    • Hey Sparkini……I agree that 9-3 next year would probably be a good year and not a step back. The schedule is tougher and the OL (the backbone of any team) will be our potential weak link. For me at least, the barometer (much like this year) will be regardless of wins and losses, how does the team “look” and how does the program “look” and it is exciting and fun to watch. This year was FUN. The prior 9 years…..not so much.

  4. I have no problem with Georgia being ranked ahead of us. They deserve it over the last two years. Plus, I want them ahead of us when we play.I wouldn’t have UCF anywhere near 10. Let’s face it. they get that ranking bc of two things , both of which are red herrings: 1. Their record. What would Vandy’s record be with that schedule? Missouri would be undefeated. What would UCF’s record be if they had 8 SEC games? How many injuries would they have at the end of the season? There are over 120 D-1 teams out there and there is no way to play even 25% of those teams. So you have to look at the schedule to make a subjective assessment on who is better. LSU dominated the game . Forget about Milton, LSU had a wide receiver playing DB and about 10 other starters out of the game. Also, if you watched the game, the refs bent over backwards to keep it close early on in the game. It was ridiculous. The most flagrant targeting I saw was committed by UCF on a QB scramble, not the one where the QB was hammered after the INT. That was clean. Even the first pick 6 for UCF was after two LSU WR’s were raped by the UCF DB’s.They both got pregnancy tests after the game. It was blatant and obvious and still no flags. 2. UCF makes a lot of noise. They act like Senators from California. Noise generates press. UCF is the underdog precisely bc of their crappy schedule ( even though it is one of the biggest schools in the country ), and the media loves an underdog. Pat is understandably following the crowd on UCF. A good story is always better than a true one, unless of course the truth is a better story.

  5. Pat,
    I think you made the right call for 2018 and I figured that UF would be ranked 7th anyway.
    Being tied to Ga in 7th is OK with me since they beat us handily, if only in the second half.
    I do have a problem with your 2019 Way too Early Pick, however.
    How do we go from the 7th ranked team this year to 10th ranked next year? Yes we have a bit of a tougher schedule, but we have a proven second year coach with his sights on the SEC Championship and beyond.
    We also have a top 9 recruiting class loaded with studs, many of whom will see action in the Fall.
    I think that 7th place in 2019 is a safe pick and top five is a real possibility with some luck.

  6. 1st: If Florida vs Georgia’s measurable are NOT close I see voting one team over the other. However, given the realty, they ARE very close and you reportedly support one team over the other, then it makes no sense not to lean toward your team with your vote. Pat! What’s wrong with you! You cost Florida a vote…and more.

    2nd: Please don’t plant the idea that Miami and Auburn will be easy wins. To win, we must play our very best and will be lucky to get out with a win. Go Gators!